Korogwe 1916

For the year 1916, ARG’s cigarette case engraved with the names of all the places he served, records just the one word ‘Korogwe’. This is a small town in Tanzania (then German East Africa) on the railway between Tanga on the coast and Moshi in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro. Korogwe sits just under the line of the Usambara Hills. Coincidentally, I recall travelling past Korogwe (a few years ago now) on the bus from Dar-es-Salaam up to Arusha on a trip to climb Mt. Meru and I remember looking out the window and thinking it would be great to trek through the hills along this stretch of road.

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I think Korogwe would fit with the details of an unnamed letter published in the Hampshire Regimental Journal, which I believe could have been written by ARG to one of his fellow officers back with the Hampshire Regiment on the Western Front or at home.
We know that ARG did not join the KAR until October 1916 and travelled out to East Africa in May 1916 to join the Motor Machine Gun Corps [MGC(M)]. The letter records the unnamed author’s frustration at being stationed away from the front line, with little chance of any ‘scrapping’. However, the letter does record one skirmish.  Below I have tried to trace the places and dates in his letter and compare them with other contemporary accounts. I have also tried to find out more about Korogwe and what was happening there between July and November 1916.

B.E.A.E.F., East Africa.
[I assume this is ‘British East Africa Expeditionary Force’]

Route of ARG - Mobassa to Korogwe

Route of ARG – Mobassa to Korogwe – map courtesy of Tip & Run by Edward Paice

I got out to this country on the 3rd July, having had a decent voyage round the Cape, calling at Cape Town and Durban. We stayed in Kilindini harbour [i.e. Mombasa] the night, and disembarked the next morning [4th July]. We entrained and got as far as Voi that night, going on to Taveta, where we stopped the night again [5th July]. We then went to Mochi, where I went into a rest camp [6th July], having left my M.M.G. details at Maktan [Maktau, probably a typo of the Regimental Journal]. A week later [13 July?] I left M. and got as far as the railhead on the Tanga line, remained there the night [possibly either Mauri or Korogwe?]. The next afternoon [14 July?] three officers and myself were detailed to go escort a mule convoy of twenty-five wagons up to the firing line, the escort composed of 150 details, all odds and ends, R.G.A., S.A. Cape Corps, etc. I was put in command of the rearguard, which was composed of fifty Cape Corps [see here for a good summary of the Cape Corps and their participation in the campaign]; they are half-castes and have white officers and one quartermaster-sergeant per company. We did a very slow eight miles that night, and formed a lager by a bridge which we had to cross over in the morning. The Pangani is a big river, and so it was an important bridge [Zuganatto Bridge? see below]. The Huns had been sniping the road a good deal. This was about eighty miles behind the firing line [possibly Pangani or Mgambo by mid-July 1916 – see below], but they got cut off. At 5.3 a.m. next morning [15 July?] we were woken up by a M.G. playing on the laager [‘laager’ – an Afrikaans term for an overnight camp fortified by encircling the ox wagons or thorn bushes], also a pom-pom [a small field gun – see ‘pom pom‘]. Well, as we were lying in the open it wasn’t pleasant. I doubled across the bridge with my scally wags, who are as a matter of fact fine scrappers [not technical military terms to my knowledge!], and made my way up the hill where the enemy were. To draw a long story short we blazed away at the bush, the people in the laager doing the same thing, and the Huns cleared off. There were about 15 whites and 150 blacks. If it had happened in France we should have been wiped out, but as the German Askari shoots with black powder (450), and can’t shoot for nuts, it’s damned bad luck if he hits you. The convoy didn’t go on, and the details stopped in the village. I have been sitting down here doing nothing ever since, except odd jobs such as post staff officer; now I am O.C. details. After that show, columns were sent out to strafe the Hun, which they did, capturing his gun [Action at Segera Hill – see below], and the sniping ceased.

I have put in an application for the K.A.R., which I hope to get.

I met Captain Green and Wheeler in the W.A.F.F.S. when they came through here on Minden Day [Minden Day is 1st August, a regimental custom for the Hampshire Regiment. This dates the letter after 1st August 1916. See below for Captains Green and Wheeler of the Gold Coast Regiment, West African Frontier Force (WAFF)]. I don’t expect to see much scrapping here

Compare the above estimated dates with the official dispatch of General Smuts:

At the same time [7 July 1916] the small [enemy] force of about two companies which had retired before Hannyngton from Korogwe along the Pangani, returned and showed signs of aggressiveness. Small raiding parties kept interfering with our telegraph line, and convoys between Korogwe and Handeni, and finally, early on the morning of the 13th July, a determined attack was made on the road bridge at Korogwe, which was, however, successfully beaten back. The time had come to secure my rear and left from this guerilla warfare. Accordingly I ordered the Inspector-General of Communications, General Edwards, to make the following dispositions: To send part of the 5th Indian Infantry from Tanga, along the railway to Muhesa; to send the 57th Rifles from Korogwe along the railway also to Muhesa, with a small detachment on their left in the direction of Amani; from Muhesa the 57th Rifles to proceed to the coast at Pangani, which was to be seized in co-operation with the Navy. In the meantime another detachment under Lt.-Col. C. W. Wilkinson, consisting of Railway Sappers and Miners, Jhind Imperial Service Infantry, and other details, was to proceed from Korogwe down the Pangani River to deal with the enemy force which had attacked the bridge, and which was reported to be at Segera Hill some distance down the right bank of the Pangani. All these movements were duly and successfully executed. At Amani about 25 enemy whites surrendered without opposition. Col. Wilkinson surprised and defeated the enemy at Segera Hill at dawn on the 15th July, and captured from them a Hotchkiss gun in good order, with ammunition, and thereafter pursued the enemy south towards Hale and Kwa Mugwe (Hoffman’s plantation). The 57th, after reaching Muhesa, proceeded to Pangani, which had been previously occupied by the Navy on the 23rd July. In the meantime, as I thought an effort should be made to capture these enemy parties, I had directed General Hannyngton’s brigade to return from Lukigura to Handeni, and from there to march along the old caravan route towards Pangani, so as to intercept the retreating enemy and to clear the country of all raiding parties. He reached Ngambo [Mgambo] about midway between Handeni and Pangani on the 21st July, but found the enemy had already slipped through, part proceeding to the coast at Mkwadja, and the greater part retiring south along a track which proceeds by Rugusi and Manga (about 40 miles south-east of Handeni), in a southerly direction towards Mandera, on the Wami River.” London Gazette 29906 – 16 January 1917 pages 692 and 693

I believe the ‘important road bridge’ over the Pangani River is the Zuganatto Bridge – 2 miles out of Korogwe, or nine miles from Mauri, on the direct route to Handeni. The bridge was captured just one month previously by 3 KAR and is shown in this sketch map from Moyse-Bartlett’s history of the KAR:
Captain Wheeler mentioned at the end of ARG’s letter was a brother officer of the Hampshire Regiment, Captain Green may also have been but I have found it difficult to find much information on him.  They were attached to the Gold Coast Regiment (GCR), who had distinguished themselves earlier in the Cameroons in 1914 and were to do so again in the East Africa Campaign. Together with the Nigeria Regiment they were part of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF), which ARG was to join for a year after the war in 1919 and again for the duration of the Second World War.  In July 1916, the GCR had only just arrived in East Africa and had taken the same route up the railway from Mombasa to Taveta and across to Moshi –
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From the junction the trains bearing the Regiment proceeded eastward down the captured German railway, in the direction of the sea and Tanga, to Ngombezi [just outside Korogwe], which is distant some forty miles from that terminus. Here they arrived on the 29th July [1916], …. Ngombezi is situated at a height of some 2000 feet above sealevel; and on detraining, the Regiment went into temporary camp, the officers and men bivouacking under shelters fashioned from blankets and waterproof sheets.”…“It had not yet been found possible to establish a main base at Tanga; and at the moment all supplies were being landed at Kilindini, and were conveyed thence, by the railway route which the Regiment had followed, to Korogwe on the Tanga-Moschi line. An advanced base had been formed at Handeni, five-and-thirty miles to the south-east of Korogwe ; and for six weeks General Smuts had been compelled to remain inactive in his camp on the Lukigura River, while sufficient stores, etc., were being accumulated to render a further and continuous advance possible.”….“The Regiment had been inspected by General Edwards on the 30th July, and on the 4th August, leaving the Depot Company to establish itself at Korogwe, they left their temporary camp at Ngombezi and began their march to Msiha, the headquarters of the First Division on the banks of the Lukigura. It was now that their troubles began, and the nine days of that march live in the memory of officers and men as perhaps the most trying period of the whole campaign.” from ‘The Gold Coast Regiment in the East Africa Campaign’ by Sir Hugh Clifford (1920)
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So if ARG was stuck in Korogwe, he would easily have met Captains Green and Wheeler during their brief one week’s rest at their temporary camp in Ngombezi. The GCR however did not hang around and cracked on down south to the ever shifting front line at a remarkable pace considering the difficulties of the terrain. Their arduous march is graphically recorded in the above quoted regimental history. The GCR were soon to engage the enemy and their exploits are described in detail in this article by Harry Fecitt –  Kikarunga Hill GEA, 4 – 6 September 1916
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The GCR regimental history records that Captain Green was killed in action at the Battle of Nkessa barely one week later, sometime between 11th to 18th September. I have not been able to find out any further information on this officer.
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Cpatain Wheeler was also mentioned in the second letter from BEA published with ARG’s in the Hants Regimental Journal in 1916:
“We left _________ next afternoon, sailing direct to Cape Town. On board I met Wheeler, awful good chap, quite a character. He is with the West African Contingent, and spoke of you as being called “The Skipper” in peace times…. We had plenty of sport aboard. There were eleven of us chaps, also Wheeler and our Colonel, no troops. We occupied the centre table, and had quite a jolly time… P.S.- Wheeler is in action with W.Africans on D.-es-S.  He was at the finish of the Tanga show.  Tanga is a death-trap with fever.”
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The  GCR regimental history records that Captain Edmund George Wheeler MC was Captain Wheeler MC - p92. The Gold Coast Regiment in the EA Campaign by Sir Hugh Cliffordseriously injured at the battle for ‘Gold Coast Hill’ near Kibata on 15th December 1916. The GCR sustained 140 casualties that day. However, despite his serious wounds, Captain Wheeler was back in action with the GCR in early January 1918 when they disembarked at Port Amelia in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) and is mentioned in the battalion’s actions at Medo in April 1918. Wheeler survived the war and I coincidentally saw his name on a list of fellow company commanders with ARG of the 2nd Bn Hampshire Regiment in Cork in 1921. The Hampshire Regiment’s history goes on to mention him as Major and acting Commanding Officer of the 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Rawalpindi and Peshawar in 1935, and as Lieut. Colonel Wheeler OBE, MC and Commanding Officer of 50th (Holding) Bn Hampshire Regiment on its formation on the Isle of Wight in June 1940.
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As for Korogwe, it seems that between August to November 1916 it was a minor supply hub or depot for a number of different units:
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The Regiment arrived at Kilwa Kisiwani on the 19th November [1916], and disembarking during the afternoon, marched to Mpara, where it encamped. Here on the following day the Battalion was joined by the Depot Company, which had hitherto remained at Korogwe, on the Tanga-Moschi Railway under Major Read” p.44 ‘The Gold Coast Regiment in the East Africa Campaign’ by Sir Hugh Clifford (1920)

Towards end of October 1916 the SA Pioneer Corps repaired the railway from Morogoro to Dar – “These trains consisted of an engine and three or four tractors, each capable of carrying from ten to fifteen tons, and did the journey from Dar-es-Salaam to Morogoro in twelve hours. The effect of this on the supply position can readily be appreciated as, until rail connection was established, all supplies had to come by road from Korogwe via Handeni. This, under the most favourable conditions, occupied three days, but frequently took a week or more, owing to heavy rains and the collapse of the temporary bridges. The maximum lorry load by road was only three tons, and the strain on the cars and drivers, owing to the bad roads, was so great that the service was in grave danger of breaking down altogether.” p.72  ‘The Story of the 1st Battalion Cape Corps, 1915-1919’ by  Captain Ivor D. Difford (1920)

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I have yet to visit the National Archive to look for any diaries for the MGC[M] or the Division which might shed more light on their activities. But it certainly seems that after July, for the rest of 1916, Korogwe was indeed far behind the firing line and far from interesting. ARG must have been very frustrated indeed.
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ARG’s handwritten service record

Also just received from Tasmania – written by ARG.

Although these two separate documents only cover the dates up to 1932 and 1935 respectively, they provide a lot of detail on ARG’s movements in the EA and SDF and so very usefully complement his MOD service record and the one engraved on his cigarette case.

ARG handwritten service record to 1932 - pt1

ARG handwritten service record to 1932 - pt2

ARG handwritten service record to 1935 - incl. school pt1

ARG handwritten service record - incl. school pt2

ARG’s service record – on the inside of a cigarette case

Just received from Tasmania these photos of ARG’s cigarette case, in which he engraved his service record. This is extremely useful and adds many more names of places to the MOD service record, especially for his later career.

I understand the hallmark is dated 1930/31 but the engraving looks to be all in the same hand, so we assume all done at the same time, which would date the engraving to be post  the last entry of 1954.ARG cigarette case - frontARG cigarette case - inside left 2

ARG cigarette case - inside right 2

with the Motor Machine Gun Corps in East Africa 1916

Just returned from a rather fruitful trip to the Royal Hampshire Museum in Winchester. I had been meaning to go for years but never made it. I was there on the dot when they opened, until they kicked me out at close of play, and I was so absorbed with all the collection I didn’t get up once. There was too much for just one day and I shall have to return.

A number of discoveries – Firstly, I discovered that ARG was initially seconded from the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve) Hampshire Regiment [which he had joined in September 1915 on recovery from his shell wound from June 1915] to the Motor Machine Gun Corps in May 1916 and travelled out the British East Africa (Kenya) to join them in June/July 1916. This would explain the delay between leaving England in May 1916 and joining the KAR in October 1915.

I then discovered two letters published in the Regimental Journal of November 1916 in the section which was dedicated to personal accounts and letters from serving members of the Regiment or those seconded to other units. The letters are undated but mention dates in the body of the text. They are written from B.E.A., from an officer in the Motor Machine Gun Corps, who is trying to move to the KAR – I suspect these letters were written by ARG but cannot be sure. I presume the letters were written to brother officers back in the 1st or 3rd Bn who found them interesting enough to publish in the Regimental Journal.

I don’t know anything about the Motor Machine Gun Corps but shall do some reconnaissance and post my findings in future posts. In the meantime, here are the extracts transcribed from the Regimental Journal – I shall update these with some footnotes on places and people in due course: 

The Hampshire Regimental Journal – May 1916 – p 107

3rd Battalion (Special Reserve) Notes

Several small drafts have proceeded to join the Expeditionary Force during the past month.

Second Lieuts. L.G.Rhodes,. D. Day, A.A. Conan-Doyle have proceeded overseas. The following officers have also left us:- Captain R.E. Wilson to the Royal Flying Corps; Lieut. A.R. Gill to the Motor Machine Gun Corps; Second Lieut. G.F. Mason to the Machine Gun Corps.

The month has passed very uneventfully otherwise.

The Hampshire Regimental Journal – Nov 1916 – p 225

Regimental Notes

[update 17/04/12 – The following two letters were published together in the Regimental Journal. on initially reading them I thought they were both by ARG to sent to different people. On consideration of the dates mentioned in the letters (the first says he left on 28th June, the second says he arrived in EA on 3rd July), I believe only the second letter is written by ARG. The first must be from another officer of the Hampshire Regiment who was seconded to EA around the same time. But I keep the first letter here as it is interesting none the less]

B.E.A

                We arrived about a fortnight back. We left ________ on the afternoon of the 28th June, arrived _______ next morning. We left _________ next afternoon, sailing direct to Cape Town. On board I met Wheeler, awful good chap, quite a character. He is with the West African Contingent, and spoke of you as being called “The Skipper” in peace times. We sailed due west from _________ for twenty-four hours, then turned due south, leaving the Azores east of us; you can follow the route, it is the general one nowadays.

We had plenty of sport aboard. There were eleven of us chaps, also Wheeler and our Colonel, no troops. We occupied the centre table, and had quite a jolly time. There were twelve officers on board en route for the Congo, the remainder of the passengers were indiscriminate. We arrived in Cape Town on the afternoon of the sixteenth day out; the next day we sailed for Durban, calling at Port Elizabeth, East London.

We were the guests of the Durban Club for nearly a week, sleeping at _____. The troops arriving from S.A. en route for G.E.A. stay at the camp until the transport takes them to B.E.A. Excellent accommodation. I was orderly officer first day out. Gad! I’ve never struck anything like it. The troops were excellent. It took us thirtysix hours to come from ______. Halfway along we found a native boy in one of the stations badly mauled by a lion. It appears the lion attacked two of them in the station the night before, mauled him, and killed and carried away the other. Nearer _____ game of all sorts abounds on the plains. ________ is 7,000 feet up on the edge of the plains; you can get game of any sort within a few miles.

I am doing musketry. The natives are of many tribes, Soudanese, Somalis, Nandi, Swahili, Keesi, Masai, etc. The Soudanese … [cont. p 227] and Abyssinians are the best; they take a deuce of a long time to learn, but they are very smart. I am teaching Nandi. I speak the Swahili, and the Nandi speaks his own language, a conglomeration of guttural utterances. They are frightfully keen and good soldiers. They are ever so smart on the square, they keep in step beautifully; the N.C.O.s are well up in their work. The native band is as good as the Guards band; it plays on guest night.

Operations are progressing. General Smuts needs fresh men every month to carry on the campaign. The Belgians are working very strategically and making good progress. Our _____ stationed at _____ are working in co-op. with their troops, objective ______.  The main force are spread now, and closing on _______.  The discipline of the G. askari (regular soldier) is rotten; they are always doped with bad whisky and do just as they like, no matter what orders are issued them from the European officers.

I had a card from Edwards.  I was pleased he got through the push. I would be pleased to know the Hants casualties.  I expect you are quite an exponent of tennis now, with dear old blazy Sandy.  Tell Sandy the big game are over-running the country. Au revoir.

P.S.- Wheeler is in action with W.Africans on D.-es-S.  He was at the finish of the Tanga show.  Tanga is a death-trap with fever.

_________________

B.E.A.E.F., East Africa.

                I got out to this country on the 3rd July, having had a decent voyage round the Cape, calling at Cape Town and Durban. We stayed in Kilindini harbour the night, and disembarked the next morning. We entrained and got as far as Voi that night, going on to Taveta, where we stopped the night again. We then went to Mochi, where I went into a rest camp, having left my M.M.G. details at Maktan. A week later I left M. and got as far as the railhead on the Tanga line, remained there the night. The next afternoon three officers and myself were detailed to go escort a mule convoy of twenty-five wagons up to the firing line, the escort composed of 150 details, all odds and ends, R.G.A., S.A. Cape Corps, etc.  I was put in command of the rearguard, which was composed of fifty Cape Corps; they are half-castes and have white officers and one quartermaster-sergeant per company.  We did a very slow eight miles that night, and formed a lager by a bridge which we had to cross over in the morning. The Pangani is a big river, and so it was an important bridge. The Huns had been sniping the road a good deal. This was about eighty miles behind the firing line, but they got cut off. At 5.3 a.m. next morning we were woken up by a M.G. playing on the lager, also a pom-pom. Well, as we were lying in the open it wasn’t pleasant. I doubled across the bridge with my scally wags, who are as a matter of fact fine scrappers, and made my way up the hill where the enemy were. To draw a long story short we blazed away at the bush, the people in the lager doing the same thing, and the Huns cleared off. There were about 15 whites and 150 blacks. If it had happened in France we should have been wiped out, but as the German Askari shoots with black powder (450), and can’t shoot for nuts, it’s damned bad luck if he hits you. The convoy didn’t go on, and the details stopped in the village. I have been sitting down here doing nothing ever since, except odd jobs such as post staff officer; now I am O.C. details. After that show, columns were sent out to strafe the Hun, which they did, capturing his gun, and the sniping ceased.

[p 228]    I have put in an application for the K.A.R., which I hope to get.

I met Captain Green and Wheeler in the W.A.F.F.S. when they came through here on Minden Day. I don’t expect to see much scrapping here.

ARG’s medals

From Left to Right:

  • 1914 Star (“Mons Star”) – issued to officers and men of British forces who served in France or Belgium between 5 August and midnight 22/23 November 1914. the ribbon carries a ‘Clasp’ with the words “5th AUG.-22nd NOV. 1914”. Often referred to as a ‘Clasp and Roses’. It was awarded to those who had operated within range of enemy mobile artillery during the above period.When the ribbon bar was worn alone, recipients of the clasp to the medal wore a small silver rosette on the ribbon bar. Engraved on the reverse: ‘2.LIET:A.R.GILL. HAMPS:R.’
  • British War Medal – issued to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who had rendered service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Engraved on the rim: ‘CAPT.A.R.GILL.’
  • Victory Medal – issued to all those who received the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star, and to most of those who were awarded the British War Medal. the ribbon carries a spray of oak leaves  – this is for those personnel “Mentioned in Despatches” between 4 August 1914 and 10 August 1920. For 1914-18 and up to 10th August 1920, the decoration consisted of a spray of oak leaves in bronze. This decoration was only established in 1919, but it had retroactive effect. From 1920 to 1993, the decoration consisted of a single bronze oak leaf. . Engraved on the rim: ‘CAPT.A.R.GILL.’
  • Defence Medal – a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II.
  • War Medal 1939–1945 – a British decoration awarded to those who had served in the Armed Forces or Merchant Navy full-time for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal – was a commemorative medal made to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953

(source: Wikipedia)

Lieut. Col. A.R.Gill – ‘ARG’

A photo of my grandfather when he was ADC to the Governor of the Gambia in 1934-5. – written on the back in my grandmother’s hand “‘Richard Gill when he was ADC to the Governor in Africa”

 

My grandfather (ARG) was the only child of his father’s third wife, and his two half brothers, Theo (GTG) and Reggie (RHG) were aged 13 and 11 respectively by the time ARG was born.

ARG went to prep-school in Broadstairs on the coast in Kent 1904, and then in 1908 on to Stubbington House, on the Solent in Hampshire and which seems to have had a particular connection with the Royal Navy.

Kenneth Johnson & ARG at school at Broadstairs

ARG (right) and Kenneth Johnson at school at Broadstairs

In 1910, ARG went on to public school at  Eastbourne College on the coast in East Sussex. He was a House Prefect and in the Rugby XV and Cricket XI.

Eastborne College Second XV

ARG – back row, third from left

2nd XI Eastborne College - front

ARG – seated on the ground, on the right